Monday, January 15, 2018

Scorpions



The ponies bit through the ropes
and took off.
I spent days trying to track them down.
Hard clay, trampled brush. No luck.
They had taken flight, leapt across the vast airy expanse
to another world. Ascended. Vanished.
I knew I shouldn’t have keep them penned up.
Such creatures were never meant to be tethered.
Each night I stare out at the distant row of lights
that inch across the highway. I’m too far away
to hear the roar of the tractor trailers,
the boxcars full of lowing cattle.
Planed fly overhead with no pilots,
lights blinking ominously as they pass.
Things are crawling out there in the darkness, slithering sideways,
Things with too many legs, or not enough.
Things that sting or bite or just stare at you
with a cyclops eye, recording everything.
Every night I stand on the other side
of the barbed wire fence, a sugar cube resting
in my open palm, waiting to hear that whinny,
that clop of hooves, waiting to feel that hot breath,
that prickle of a hairy lip kissing forgiveness.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Letter to my Wife, Pt. III

My little wife, cloaked in dusty feathers,
descends the cellar steps.
Her many feet sink into piles of books and bottles,
planks and sheets of plywood,
crusty towels and stiff blankets,
broken toys, pieces of machinery.
She sinks in up to her nose, pushes her way through
to the back of the basement.
Every day she carries things up by the armload
and takes other things back down the stairs.
She swims through the debris like I swim through
my memories of her.
At the end of the day she emerges
coated in grime, sticky and dirty,
and I lick her clean like a cat,
pausing only to gently scold her,
to tell her to stand still, no matter how much it tickles.

My wife's teeth cast a picket fence shadow
across the vacant lot. The sun is spinning like a top
and she tries to catch it in her mouth
but it's spinning too fast.
I pull a curtain across her but it turns to dust.
I pull the blanket up to cover her blank face
but it catches fire.
I reach into the sea of junk to try to rescue her,
but I come up with nothing but a cat skeleton
wired together with no paws, all those tiny paw bones
scattered like dice, tumbling into the cracks
between the floorboards.

When my wife and I go out, we put on our glass masks
so that people can still see who we are.
We wear matching suits made of dominoes
that click softly when we move. Our hands
are porcelain doorknobs, forcing us to pick up things
with our teeth. We are told we make a lovely couple,
but I have my doubts. I can see the mirrors,
the photographs. I know how my skin splits open
every time I smile, I know her breasts hang down so low
she has to carry them draped over her arm like stoles.
The newspapers, whatever's left of them,
report our every move, as do the internet gossip columns.
She reads them to me in bed every night.
They make her laugh with a sound of grease
hissing on a skillet, but I just smile.
It helps me sleep knowing we're still
worthy of such attention.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Winter Swallows the Gorge

Look inside my open mouth, see The Gorge
dusted with snow in there, firs shimmering crystal
against the blue sky in there
See the gleaming diamond mountaintop in the distance
The river lapping black against the shore, breathing an icy wind
Deeper down my throat, the town of Hood River is bustling,
just a few streets of shops, everyone out getting
last-minute Christmas gifts, bodies swaddled, faces wrapped
 as a trumpeter's tuneless squawks echo off the old brick buildings.

Beyond that, at the bottom of my gullet
sits a mess of turkey carcasses and donkey bones
and crusts and pips and rinds and ribbons leftover
from holidays past, a greasy heap shivering with rats
I shift my gigantic bulk so you can get a better look inside.
Past the yellow teeth, past the sheer cliffs,
past the frozen waterfall, you can see between my ribs
the talons of a taxidermied hawk
pierce the belly of a laminated salmon
on a Douglas fir branch in a visitor center diorama
It all almost gets washed away every time I open my mouth
and tip back the glass. When the bottle is empty
I hurl it in for good measure, listen for the tiny crash.

I can hardly move, weighed down by the miles and miles
of rock formations lining the river inside me
so I spend Christmas Eve immobile on the couch,
ribbons of smoke gently undulating out my ears,
cat on my lap, his face disappearing into himself
as I wait for news, or a call, wait for something,
but the phone is blank and silent.
I yawn, everyone’s asleep in there, or cleared out of town,
the buildings abandoned, hills pale in the moonlight.
Eventually I doze off, and if I dream, it's of lying
in that soft inviting snow and looking up at the black sky
before picking myself up and diving into my own mouth,
gulping down that icy wind, that cold black river.


Friday, January 5, 2018

The Backtracks

Boom! Where does the blooming (blooming) heart (heart) go (go)?
It has no ears, just a mouthful of moans.
And a mess, a dripping mess, eyes and lips
and nostrils gushing. Where do the petals go
when they've been blown off by a firecracker?
Wayward Roman candles by the bushel, dumped out
Your face pressed to the wall
which has a face drawn on it. A hole the size of your fist,
this frozen egg, this scorched and blackened knot.
Pale hand thumbing a plastic lighter.
Biker scouts mapping paths, exploring those woods behind the house
we called The Backtracks. Be home before it gets dark.
Before getting called back for snacks.
Basketball hoops with no ropes, no chains. 
Milkweed and briars trampled underfoot. A rabbit's foot,
A hoof sticking out of the snow, you grab onto it
for dear life as the world spins out from under you.
Riding dirt bikes along the rails, slather the whole thing in fat,
twist apart those rocks to get at the gooey insides. Slurp.

Crack! Where does the time go? Oyster-slippery, try passing it
from one tongue to the next, hoping it doesn't slide off
to plop on the pavement. Which it always does.
In that case, just hope you don't step on it. Which you always do.
All those little heads collected in my palm.
All those little faces molded by pain. They just wash away.
There's no bearing, no tracking. Silt slipping down a ribbon of water.
Tubes undulating in the current. Standing on the deck of a toy boat
before it capsizes. We dug and dug but never found any bones.
The plywood lean-to, the planks still nailed to a trunk
from some abandoned tree fort. Car seats dumped in the woods.
Old Christmas trees. Your ear a strange sea creature,
curled up and listening. Ssshh.

Smack! Where do your memories of those trails go?
Are your footprints still there somewhere?
Memories of pushing aside the branches, feeling them slap back
Combing burrs and needles from your hair.
Someone was here, having sex on this crummy mattress
before you and your cigarettes got here.
Slap of a board on the ground, wet worm grass twisting
Packages all get thrown into puddles, just sit there soaking.
Soggy magazines in the weeds. Paper and string and cardboard,
clap of thunder and stepping stones. Green algae under the ice.
Pancake mix and gunpowder, liquid smoke and power lines.
Fried pencil cracklings and a liquor made of fermented eraser shavings.
The wolves were found miles away, swollen and writhing
with foil in their stomachs. The banging shut of a wooden screen door.
The slow milky drip of a candle. Baby buggy on its side,
Goodwill tires half-covered by leaves. The roar of a swarm of wasps

getting louder. Bzzzzz!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Turbulence over Aberdeen, South Dakota

 I'm thinking of you

as we prepare to go down

though no one will know it

this page no doubt lost

as our remains and debris

are smeared across

the badlands. Nevertheless

I'm thinking of you, my love,

nothing specific really

just sort of turning over

all my regrets

like sharp stones I can't seem

to stop fingering

even though they slice

my fingertips to shreds

I wonder what

you're doing right now, wonder

what time it is where you are

I wonder what it'll feel like

as we dive, does it really all flash

before your eyes, and if so,

will i be able to savor

the parts in which you starred

Will you hold my hand

and look at me

with those big, sad eyes

one last time

Will the last thing I hear

be your laugh as I tell you

one last stupid joke,

the sound of your voice

as you call me a fucking idiot,

smiling while you say it?












Saturday, December 9, 2017

Your Terrors

My hands cupped together, I scoop out a mound of your terrors, hold them out to you. They glisten midnight blue in the fluorescent light. These new lights don't hum like the old ones did, and the light they cast is cold, cold. Your terrors turn black and dull as they dry in my pale hands. You lap them up. I feel your coarse tongue scrape my fingers. You look at me, your eyes dark and wide, your teeth sharp and gleaming in the cold, cold light. I notice a black clump of grit caught in your gums and reach to pick it out, then think better of it.

You come at me with all your hands held out in tiny fists before you, twenty hands, thirty hands, a single terror clasped within one of them. You beg me to pick. I tap one and it unfurls, empty. I tap another. Empty. This goes on and on. Forty hands, fifty. I am tired of playing this game but you won't let me stop. Finally I clench my hand and hold it out and say to you, pick, and smile at the look on your face when I open my fist.

Your terrors are lined up on the windowsill for the sun to shine through, so they can gaze out at the world through the rain-speckled glass. Your terrors sprout roots, legs, little stalks covered with spores waiting for someone to open the window and blow.

Your terrors are in my mouth. One by one I suck the flesh from them and spit out the pips. You take the pips and grind them with a mortar and pestle, add a splash of rancid milk, stir them into a paste. You close your eyes and smear the paste across your eyelids. When you open your eyes the world will be cloaked in a curtain of flesh. You take that curtain in your teeth and tear it aside.

Your mouth webbed shut to keep the terrors out. My mouth webbed shut to keep the terrors in. We press our webbed shut mouths together. The spider dances between us, ensuring that we shall never pull apart. The banging of a drum, the beating of a heart, neighbor banging on the wall.

Your terrors thrown in the washing machine, plucked out and hung on the line to dry. They still look horrifying, wrinkled and shriveled and dripping in the sun, flapping like great dark wings in the breeze.They still make you run across the lawn, leap the hedges, hide in the garden shed. They still frighten you more than anything you've ever seen. But at least they're clean.

I have an old corn broom to sweep your terrors away. I have an inside-out mask so they won't recognize me when I chase after them. I have a set a of plastic toys: a lion, a sun, a mob of beasts, the wind. I have a map I drew in the dust with the broom stick. I have a number of screens and when the are turned on the world disappears, but the terrors are still there.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Evolution

He sat there on the muddy bank
Wrung the muddy water from his suit
and plodded onto dry land
shoes squelching, leaving
a glistening trail behind him

He sat there behind the desk
talking into phones, staring into screens
Swallowing anything that got too close
Shitting out the bones

He stood there on the stage
screaming from every orifice, every pore
A thousand hungry mouths
wired together in the shape of a man

He hung there in the sky
rope disappearing up into the clouds
His silhouette twisting slightly in the breeze
as a single bird took a shit
on his shoulder